Belfast Telegraph

Ajax having more time to prepare for semi-final is not fair – Pochettino

Spurs face West ham on Saturday before hosting Ajax on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino is not happy with scheduling (Adam Davy/PA)
Mauricio Pochettino is not happy with scheduling (Adam Davy/PA)

Mauricio Pochettino says it is “not fair” that Ajax get the weekend off before their Champions League semi-final while Tottenham have a Premier League match to play.

Spurs have at least been afforded a Saturday lunchtime kick-off as they aim to further tighten their grip on the top four when they host West Ham, but the Dutch Eredivisie have cancelled Ajax’s domestic fixture.

Pochettino went on a lengthy rant ahead of his side’s last-16 fixture at Borussia Dortmund, calling on the governing bodies in this country to help English clubs with scheduling, and he has been again left frustrated by a disparity in preparation time.

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Ajax have extra time off ahead of the Champions League semi-final (Luca Bruno/AP)

Spurs’ packed fixture list would make it impossible for their game against the Hammers to be played at another time, but Pochettino says Ajax will now have an advantage.

“I know the Premier League and the FA tried to help us to prepare the semi-final,” the Spurs boss said.

“The Premier League is completely different to the Dutch league. Football in Europe is completely different to England.

“The reality is they’re going to have more time to prepare and avoid risk. When you play Saturday and you must play Tuesday, and you compete in a derby game playing for big things, the concentration and effort is massive.

“You can always have some problems. But it’s not a complaint.

“Only the fact is that I think it’s not fair. Like it would be if it was the opposite. If we had one week to prepare the semi-final and Ajax played Saturday, it would be the same in my mind.

“I don’t want to create a debate but the fact is, playing a Champions League semi-final, I think both teams should have the same time to prepare.

“We need to accept, it’s not a thing to complain about, we are in England, the toughest competition in the world.

I think it's not fair. Like it would be if it was the opposite. Mauricio Pochettino

“It’s always better to have time, to focus today on Tuesday’s game against Tottenham because you’re not preparing for a league game.

“We start thinking about Ajax after the game tomorrow. That is an advantage, sometimes yes, sometimes it’s a disadvantage because you have too much time to prepare. I will tell you after the game.

“What is true is the fact is they are going to avoid risk, we are going take risks.”

Victory against the Hammers would all-but seal a fourth consecutive top-four place for Pochettino’s side, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all dropping points in recent days.

And Pochettino feels Saturday’s game is more important than the one against Ajax on Tuesday.

He added: “If you said to me which game is more important, tomorrow is more important than Tuesday.

“Tomorrow is going to be decisive and key in being in the top four. We want to be in the top four and we want to be in the next Champions League.

“Of course Tuesday is going to be important when Tuesday arrives. We must concentrate on tomorrow because it’s a derby. When you play a derby it’s more than a game for our fans and because it is a massive thing to be playing for next season.

“To be in the top four is a massive achievement if we are able to get it.”

Spurs’ packed fixture schedule is made worse by a threadbare squad, with no injured players returning against the Hammers.

Serge Aurier, Erik Lamela (both hamstring), Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks (both groin) and Harry Kane (ankle) are still out.

PA

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